• Home
  • About
  • Guest Post

    Never one to roam / I took the first bus home / and I haven’t changed

    It’s this sort of story that makes me glad I live in a country in which people will just say straight out that they believe Koreans are congenitally lazy and stupid and Chinese people are treacherous. You can then disagree, with reason and example, and actually get somewhere.

    But where…how do you…is it even…WTF can you possibly say to this?

    The city of Chicago will continue to set aside a portion of its construction contracts for firms owned by blacks, Hispanics and women — but not Asian-Americans.

    The revised ordinance, approved Wednesday night by the City Council, lists the groups that statistical evidence shows are socially disadvantaged.

    Under the law, Asian-Americans can still apply for city work if they do so as individuals and document that they have been discriminated against.

    The changes upset Asian-American leaders as well as some aldermen who said the city was opening itself up to a return to discriminatory practices.

    The City of Chicago is “opening itself up to a return to discriminatory practices,” by airily judging who’s downtrodden enough to compete for clubby set-aside municipal contracts? Good Lord. Imagine what might happen if they pull out all the stops and start discriminating for real.

    It gets better. There seem to have been warning signs from a few months ago on that Asian-Americans would be excluded. At least one affected party is clearly not one to let anything so trivial as self-respect get in the way of a good gravy train:

    Nakachi is concerned that Asian business owners are being defined too narrowly. He noted one line in Moran’s decision about the disparity of people eligible under the program: “A third-generation Japanese-American from a wealthy family, and with a graduate degree from MIT, qualifies.”

    “We have polled our membership and we can’t find any MIT graduates,” Nakachi said. “It’s kind of a stereotype that all Asians are highly educated and highly successful.”

    I know that’s what I look for in people in charge of public works projects: the conviction that they and their kind are as capable of being mediocre as anyone else is.

    Okay, fine–he didn’t say they were stupid or incompetent, only that their degrees might not have brand value and they might not have achieved prominent reputations. And I realize that I’m falling into the Gotcha! routine that Camille Paglia complained about in discussing blogs with Salon. (Well, she didn’t elaborate, but I assume she was referring to the practice of linking to an article, quoting its dumbest paragraph, appending some snarky put-down, and signing off.) But I find few things more infuriating than encountering people who are frankly anti-aspirational.

    3 Responses to “Never one to roam / I took the first bus home / and I haven’t changed”

    1. Auntie Mame says:

      Is it any wonder that we had to leave Chicago, even though it is (IMHO) the most beautiful city in North America?
      They also passed a law recently that required that any company that does business with the state (any vendor relationship) go into their archives and determine if their company ever owned slaves (or subcontracted with anyone who did). There was no penalty for this, of course, you weren’t going to be excluded if the company had owned slaves 160 years ago… no… no penalty. You could not do business with the State if you did not comply… nope… no penalty there–move along folks, nothing to see. All they wanted was a form filled out–they had no intention of ever doing anything with that information–just for their files, ya know?

    2. Sean says:

      I’m sure Chicago isn’t exactly alone among major cities. (Have you seen “The 7.63% Solution,” which Tama Starr wrote for Reason when Virginia Postrel was Editor? Priceless.) The slave thing is a new one on me, though. It’s a shame that Japanese-American contractor didn’t think to use that line in his argument: “My ancestors weren’t even here when slavery was around!” Every little bit helps, you know.
      Actually, I probably should have been clearer on this, but…having spent quite a bit of time around Asian-Americans, I don’t think the complaints about casually being considered a Model Minority are illegitimate. But there’s a difference between “Why do you assume, having just met me, that I have a degree in Engineering?” and “Why do you assume I don’t need the books cooked to get a contract?”

    3. Auntie Mame says:

      In a former life I worked around Asian kids, in an outreach project in New York. One of the biggest problems was that stereotype. All Asian kids weren’t good at math and the schools were indignant about it. They wouldn’t offer them help or would suggest it was a behavior problem–because of COURSE they were genetically wired to do well in that subject.
      This outreach project filled the gap–providing math tutoring and ESL courses to these kids.